Field of Science

Irrational thinking alive and well in DC

The regular Tuesday meeting of the House Republican caucus grew heated last month when some of the more seasoned lawmakers said it was time to “shut up,” as one put it, about the birther issue. The caucus has 85 new members, more than 30 of whom are new to elective office and some took strong exception to being urged not to talk about President Obama’s birth certificate. “Well, I don’t think he was born in this country,” one freshman snapped.
“well, I don’t think ___(fill in the blank)___ .” It’s what some students say about evolution. It’s what people who are opposed to regulation of green house gases say about global warming. It’s what anti-vaxxers say about the lack of a link between vaccinations and autism. Such people are simply not rational. A rational person changes their mind, accepts they were wrong, and adjusts their thinking when presented with compelling data and information contrary to their position. All of us can be pretty stubborn about changing our minds at times, and it's OK to demand good evidence, but nothing you could show that GnOPe birther would change their mind. Unfortunately, this is a person who has been given the responsibility of running our country, and they have demonstrated that they are in no way rational. Is that who you want running things that actually matter? And some of my students will not change their minds about evolution no matter what you show them, no matter how compelling the evidence, so they are incapable of learning about this and who knows what else. Is this type of thinking largely the result of religious thinking, a non-questioning belief fervently held in the face of any and all disclaimers? The Phactor may be joining the ranks of those who want a religious litmus test for those wishing to run for office, but for exactly the opposite reason.

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